TORONTO - New works by CanLit favourites Alice Munro, M.G. Vassanji, Susan Swan and David Bergen will highlight the fall book season, along with a memoir by rock legend Neil Young and a children's book from rapper K'naan.
"It's honestly our strongest season maybe in the company history," says Beth Lockley, executive director of publicity and marketing for Penguin Group of Canada, which has the Young memoir and several other celebrity titles.
The fall season is crucial to the publishing industry here as book-buying picks up ahead of the Christmas period, notes Scott Sellers, vice president and director of marketing strategy at Random House of Canada.
"That's why you get your big guns out, starting mid-to-late August, building momentum and attention for them through the fall, through awards seasons, heading into the month of December, when people are really in the stores in huge numbers looking to find books to read, books to give as gifts."
High-profile fiction books that hit shelves earlier this month include "The Age of Hope" (HarperCollins Canada) by Bergen, 2005 Giller winner for "The Time in Between." The new story follows Hope Koop as she tries to find her identity in a small town outside Winnipeg.
Also available now is "The Tale-Teller" (Cormorant Books), Susan Glickman's second novel after her acclaimed 2006 debut "The Violin Lover." Set in a Quebec harbour in 1738, "The Tale-Teller" features a Jewish prisoner and is based on the true story of an obscure historical figure.
One of the most hotly anticipated fiction titles still to come is Munro's 13th collection of short stories, "Dear Life" (Douglas Gibson Books/McClelland & Stewart), due out in October. Set around Lake Huron, it highlights "how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be."
"Any time there's an Alice Munro I think it's a literary event, and I think this is going to be no exception," says Sellers, noting the spotlight-shunning literary star is expected to make a rare public appearance at the International Festival of Authors in October.
Vassanji — who, like Munro, has twice won the Scotiabank Giller Prize — will push out his new novel, "The Magic of Saida" (Doubleday Canada), in September. The story follows a Canadian doctor as he returns to his homeland of East Africa to find his childhood sweetheart.
Commonwealth Writers' Prize winner Shauna Singh Baldwin's "The Selector of Souls" (Knopf Canada) is due in September and is her first novel since her Giller-nominated "The Tiger Claw" in 2004.
"It's a really big, sweeping novel set against India on the brink of economic boom in the mid-'90s, and two women who are in a clash of faith and tradition to try and maintain the lives and dignity of young girls and women in their community," says Sellers. "It's quite something."
Also out in September is IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Rawi Hage's "Carnival" (House of Anansi Press), his latest novel since his 2008 Giller finalist "Cockroach."
Laura Repas of House of Anansi Press calls "Carnival" a satirical, wild tale of "magical realism" that follows a taxi driver.
"I love it. I think it's his best work yet," she says. "It's got this wonderful combination of being this wild thing, this careening wild ride, but being very disciplined at the same time."
September will also see the release of Annabel Lyon's "The Sweet Girl" (Random House), the follow-up to her Writers' Trust Prize-winning 2009 novel "The Golden Mean." While the first book took a fictional look at the life of Greek philosopher Aristotle, the new story does the same with his daughter, Pythias.
Acclaimed writer Swan also revisits one of her beloved characters, polio-plagued doctor's daughter Mary (Mouse) Bradford, with "The Western Light" (coming in September from Cormorant Books). It's set in Georgian Bay in the 1950s, before Mary went off to school in Swan's international bestseller "The Wives of Bath," which inspired the 2001 film "Lost and Delirious."
"Up and Down" (out in September from Douglas Gibson Books/M&S) is the third comical novel from Terry Fallis, author of the Stephen Leacock Medal-winning "The Best Laid Plans." "Up and Down" follows a public relations newbie as he creates a campaign to revitalize interest in the space program.
Renowned playwright and writer Cordelia Strube unveils her ninth novel, "Milosz" (Coach House Books), in September. The comical follow-up to Strube's heralded "Lemon" follows misfit Milo, a washed-up actor struggling to pull his life together.
With "Sussex Drive" (Random House, due in October), Gemini Award-winning screenwriter and author Linda Svendsen puts a fictional, satirical spin on Ottawa as she writes about the wife of a prime minister and a female governor general.
"I sort of put aside my list of books I'm going to get to when I have time to read for pleasure and that's one of them," Sellers says of "Sussex Drive."
Bill Gaston, who's been a finalist for the Giller and the Governor General's Literary Award, is also in the September queue with "The World" (Hamish Hamilton Canada). It's described as a tale of five intertwining "heartbreaking" stories.
Meanwhile, former Commonwealth Writers' Prize finalist Donna Morrissey will be on the September scene with "The Deception of Livvy Higgs" (Viking Canada), about an ailing elderly woman who revisits her past.
Debut novels with advance buzz include "Y" by Marjorie Celona (due in September from Penguin), which follows Shannon, who was abandoned at a YMCA as a newborn.
Lockley says it's one of Penguin's most highly anticipated books of the season.
"Shannon is one of those characters in fiction that you never ever really stop thinking about. Certainly one of the most unforgettable ones I've ever read, so we've submitted it for all major prizes."
Emma Donoghue — whose 2010 novel "Room" won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Man Booker Prize — releases the globetrotting collection "Astray" (HarperCollins) in September.
Choice Canadian non-fiction on the docket includes Young's memoir, "Waging Heavy Peace" (on sale in October from Penguin), which is described as a "candid, witty and revealing" look at the legendary musician.
"I think this is going to be such a treat for his fans because he is notoriously very shy and from what we know of now, he's really kind of saying it all in this book," says Lockley.
K'naan, meanwhile, will release a children's picture book about his life in September. "When I Get Older: The Story Behind 'Wavin' Flag'" (Tundra Books) has text from the Somalian-born rapper-poet and illustrations by artist Rudy Gutierrez.
Meanwhile, CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi looks at songs and musical moments that have changed his life in the literary memoir "1982" (due in September from Viking Canada).
Several famous comedians also have titles out in the coming months: CBC personality Rick Mercer will release "A Nation Worth Ranting About" (Doubleday) in September; duct-tape lover Red Green will push out "The Green Red Green" (Doubleday) in October; standup and TV star Gerry Dee has "Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks" (Doubleday) for October; and improv master Colin Mochrie offers "Not Quite the Classics" (Penguin) in November.
Meanwhile, beloved actor Gordon Pinsent's memoir, "Next" (M&S), is due in October and was co-written by famed journalist George Anthony.
Speaking of journalists, veteran newsman Lloyd Robertson will share his life story in the October title "The Kind of Life It's Been" (HarperCollins).
In "Into the Abyss" (due in October from Random House of Canada), journalist Carol Shaben details the night her late politician father, Larry Shaben (who was Canada's first Muslim Cabinet Minister), survived a plane crash in 1984 in Alberta.
Jael Ealey Richardson, daughter of former CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey, also reflects on her father's legacy with "The Stone Thrower" (Thomas Allen Publishers, out in September).
For the business-minded, there's "Decisions" (HarperCollins, out in September) from "Dragons' Den" entrepreneur and pizza-chain mogul Jim Treliving, and "The Power of Why" (HarperCollins, out in October) by Amanda Lang of CBC News.
Environmental threats are the focus of the memoir/cautionary tale "Save the Humans" (Random House, due in September) by eco-warrior Rob Stewart, who gained fame with his 2007 documentary "Sharkwater."
The future of humanity is also touched on in Neil Turok's "The Universe Within" (an October release from Anansi), the 51st edition of the ongoing and hit Massey Lectures series.
And what would a gift-giving season be without some art-filled, coffee table books?
Covering that base is "The Illustrated Journals of Susanna Moodie" (set for October from Cormorant Books), a reproduction of a limited-edition 1980 publication featuring illustrations from Charles Pachter and poems from Margaret Atwood.
Then there's "Imagining Canada: A Century of Photographs Preserved By The New York Times" (coming in October form Doubleday), which has MP Justin Trudeau as one of its contributors, and Michael McKinley's October-bound "Hockey Night in Canada: 60 Seasons" (Viking Canada) featuring photos and text.